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Cherry preserves are a type of fruit jam or spread usually made with standard processes of preserving cherries. These kinds of preserved foods are often made from scratch with a few basic ingredients and sealed in glass jars for storage. Different types of cherries can yield preserves with varying levels of sweetness. Some cherry preserves have a tart flavor similar to citrus preserves, while others have a flavor closer to that of cherry pie filling. Making preserves from cherries usually requires removing cherry pits, although the rest of the cooking and canning methods are normally similar to those for preserving other kinds of fruit.
Ingredients for cherry preserves typically include water, sugar, and the thickening agent pectin that is needed for homemade preserves to reach the correct consistency. Some cooks use pectin with added sugar, while others find that this type of pectin yields a too-sweet batch of preserves. Unsweetened pectin is usually available as an alternative. Lemon juice is also sometimes added to preserves made with sweeter cherries to balance out the overall flavors.
Pitting cherries for preserves can usually be done most efficiently with a specialized kitchen tool called either a pitter or a stoner. Some preserve makers like to slice large cherries in half and remove the pits by hand, although this method can sometimes be tricky and result in juice loss from ripe cherries. After the pits have been extracted, the cherries are then typically cooked in a large pot of boiling water along with the sugar and optional lemon juice. The pectin is usually mixed in according to individual recipe instructions once the fruit is sufficiently cooked for cherry preserves. An alternate method of cooking cherries for preserves is to bake them on a cookie sheet in an oven.
Cooking cherries in boiling water often results in a layer of foam on the surface. Experienced homemade preserve makers often advise skimming this foam before the mixture is poured into sterilized preserve jars. Leftover foam in cherry preserves can sometimes result in air bubbles that can lessen the shelf life of fruit preserves and even result in bacterial contamination in some cases. Correctly canned cherry preserves in sterile glass jars can often remain fresh for as long as one year.
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